Ride of a lifetime

Bespoke surfboards from a London-based company with global connections and a cult following

The (somewhat curiously) London-based bespoke surfboard company Swami’s is the brainchild of surfing enthusiast Giles Dunn and his wife, Ilka, who named the company after a picturesque Californian surf break. Their passion for surfing and love of art and design has led – over 10 years of independently run operations – to a cult following and collaborations with tastemakers such as Paul Smith (limited-edition board of 50 from £1,200) and Orlebar Brown. Alongside these high-profile partnerships, Swami’s also maintains a commitment to European artisans and working with environmentally sustainable materials.

The process of commissioning a surfboard involves working closely with Dunn on the selection of shape, size, length and design scheme. Much like a custom suit, clients supply information regarding height and weight, as well as level of experience and preferred surfing conditions, so that each of the handmade-to-order boards can be specifically tailored to their needs. Dunn then works closely with his global network of eight shapers, who stretch from Cornwall to South Carolina to the beaches of Australia and are masters at honing boards from both foam and wood.

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After a particular model has been sculpted, chic graphic elements – from the shaper’s signature to the rider’s initials – come into play. Specially commissioned images can be incorporated into the company’s signature pared-down designs, which are drawn on rice paper and then laminated onto the decks, where they are sealed by layers of fibreglass, tinted with custom resin and polished to a high gloss.

From designs such as the limited edition of 20 Phantom Feather boards (second picture, £3,600), which are produced in conjunction with online shop 20ltd and have a striking feather motif, to The Monk (£685-£950), an iconic 1950s-inspired model, each is a high-performance board with its own character. Handmade in the UK, the Monk models feature double-wrapped patched decks, tail blocks and split gloss finishes, which are designed for harder turns and bigger barrels. Other special editions include the Turban Wrap (from £1,200) – a board inspired by Indonesian travels that beautifully incorporates silk fabrics into the surface layers.

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And just in time for summer’s swells is the launch of Swami’s bespoke wetsuit service. Made in the UK from the finest Japanese Yamamoto neoprene, the wetsuits (from £295) are an even slicker way to enjoy the perfect ride.

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